The Prisoner’s Handbook
The special book you keep under the bed,
the one your father doesn’t know about,
the one with the shattered green binding,
faded gilt star, smell of horse hair burning,
the one you might hear breathing at night,
when the business of the house has fallen
to a low hum.
This book describes positions, of course,
and incantations, it has recipes to make
fancy, bitter cookies, directions on décor;
how to brighten a room until it blinds your
mother, until she is left with nothing but
old images on the back of her eyeballs.
Behind the second chapter diagrams shrink
or grow depending on the angle, they are
simple, direct, red and black, they show
a daughter where the shovel with the sharpened,
ancient edge hangs on the back fence,
and how to use it.
The last, final page looks blank but
is embossed, and when
held sideways to your flashlight
lists a hundred different ways
to say goodbye.